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Home / Ketogenic Diet / 9 Bad Keto Ingredients to Avoid

9 Bad Keto Ingredients to Avoid

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg January 29, 2019

It seems like new keto or "keto-friendly" snacks and foods are popping up everywhere you look. While it might be tempting to take advantage of these products rather than making your own, you have to be careful. Unfortunately, many of these so-called keto products aren't keto-friendly at all. I highly suggest you start reading the labels and checking the ingredients that are in these products. Some of these ingredients are harmful and will kick you out of ketosis immediately. That's why I've put together this list of nine keto ingredients to avoid, so that you can reach your healthy keto goals.

In this article:

  1. What is Keto Friendly?
  2. 9 Bad Ingredients to Avoid on the Keto Diet
  3. Listen to Your Body

What is "Keto Friendly?"

If you've been taking advantage of the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting (which I highly recommend you do) you probably know the basic foods you should stay away from. Carbs and sugar are, of course, a big no-no.

But, if you're buying snacks labeled as keto or keto-friendly, you may be consuming surprise ingredients that aren't doing you any favors. If you feel you've been doing everything right and are still struggling to get into or stay in ketosis, these keto ingredients may even be the problem.

That's because these companies count on you not looking twice at the labels or ingredients listed on their products. So, they sneak hidden ingredients with complicated names into these so-called keto snacks and foods. They think their customers won't notice or won't know what the ingredients are, and assume that they're indeed keto-friendly. But, unfortunately, all companies can't quite be trusted like that. It's best to have an understanding of what these ingredients to avoid on keto are so you can look out for them yourself.

Just because something is disguised as keto doesn't mean it really is. But what does "keto-friendly" mean in the first place?

Well, if you're new to keto, or you aren't an old pro. The keto diet is a low-carb, medium-protein, high-fat diet. We have been trained our whole lives to believe fat is bad. But, this is a huge misconception. A low-carb ketogenic diet can produce a ton of different health benefits. Many people have seen a huge difference in their health after applying the principles of a healthy ketogenic diet. The keto diet isn't just for weight loss. It's to improve your overall health.

One of the goals of the ketogenic diet is to achieve ketosis. I've made a lot of various videos centered around people's questions about the keto diet and ketosis. You should definitely check them out if you're new to the subject. Essentially, if you aren't in ketosis, you're really just doing a low-carb diet. This is fine, but a lot of the real benefits lie in ketosis.

But, achieving ketosis is difficult. You have to go against what you've always been told and include healthy fats in your diet like dairy products, red meats, and even oils like olive oil or coconut oil. It's not just the keto diet either. You have to train your body to be comfortable with intermittent fasting. But, once you get into ketosis, it's so worth it.

With the effort that goes into the keto diet, it can be incredibly frustrating when a product that is labeled as helpful to those on the ketogenic diet actually throws them out of ketosis.

"Keto-friendly" is supposed to refer to a product that will help and benefit those on the keto diet. It may even help a person get into or stay in ketosis, but it should definitely never make them get out of ketosis.

Many of those on the keto diet already know the "keto-friendly" foods such as:

  • Butter
  • Ghee
  • Seafood
  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Dairy products
  • low-carb vegetables
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Eggs
  • And more...

If you're on the keto diet you probably also know the foods to steer clear of like:

  • Grains and grain-based foods
  • Sugar and sweetened products
  • High-carbohydrate fruits
  • High-carbohydrate vegetables and tubers
  • Milk and low-fat dairy products
  • And more...

However, even though you may know the foods to eat or not eat on a low-carb ketogenic diet, ingredients are still tricky. Especially when something is labeled as low-carb or as being good for those on the keto diet. Another thing to note is that just because a product may be low-carb, it may still not be the right choice for those on the keto diet.

Always read the ingredients. No matter what.

Woman giving a thumbs down while holding sugar cubes |  9 Bad Keto Ingredients to Avoid

9 Bad Ingredients to Avoid on the Keto Diet

Let's dive right into the ingredients to stay away from on keto and why.

1.) Corn Fiber

What is it?

You might see the words corn and fiber and think that corn fiber must be harmless or even good for you. It's not. You might think that this type of fiber will aid with weight loss like other fibers. It won't.

Soluble corn fiber or SCF is a non-digestible fiber that's found in many prepackaged or processed foods. Manufactures use corn fiber because it's cheap. It's used as a filler, thickener, and preservative. Corn fiber is made from chemically processed corn syrup. It goes through a process called enzymatic hydrolysis and ends up as a tasteless white powder.

Why to avoid it while on the keto diet:

When it comes to health benefits, corn fiber doesn't really have any. It's a little lower on the glycemic index, but it may still spike your blood sugar and kick you out of ketosis. Corn fiber is GMO and about as processed as it gets. It may also create a lot of gas and other digestive issues.

2.) Maltodextrin

What is it?

Maltodextrin is made from starch sources like wheat, corn, potatoes, and rice. It's another one of those ingredients used by manufacturers as a filler and preservative because it's cheap.

You'll find maltodextrin in common products like candy, puddings, pie fillings, beer, bottled and canned beverages, low-calorie foods, prepackaged chips, and keto snacks. It doesn't seem like anything keto should be on the same list as candy and prepackaged chips.

Why to avoid it while on the keto diet:

It's really surprising that this ingredient could be labeled as keto-friendly. The main reason being that maltodextrin has an extremely high glycemic index. It clocks in at over 100 on the glycemic index, which is more than sugar. This will obviously spike your blood sugar and kick you out of ketosis—hurting all of your hard work on the ketogenic diet. Maltodextrin turns to sugar faster than sugar turns to sugar.

Let that sink in.

3.) Dextrin

What is it?

Dextrin is also made from starches. Starches are complex carbohydrates made up of mostly sugar molecules. Dextrin is used in a ton of products on the grocery store shelves, including soups, keto foods, and even baby foods. Its main uses, are again, to thicken these products and act as a preservative.

Why to avoid it while on the keto diet:

Dextrin is a synthetic sugar. No matter the form, sugar is bad. It's especially harmful to those trying to stick to a low-carb diet like the ketogenic diet. This isn't just for weight loss reasons. Sugars and synthetic sugars have an impact on your overall health.

Different types of artificial sweeteners on a wood surface |  9 Bad Keto Ingredients to Avoid

4.) Dextrose

What is it?

Just because it's not labeled as sugar doesn't mean it's not sugar. Sugar comes in many different forms, and dextrose is one of them. This is one of those hidden ingredients that companies think that you won't notice because of the name. But, dextrose is actually a common form of sugar found in prepackaged and processed foods.

It's also used to help the dough rise and is known to enhance food colorings. Dextrose can be found in everything from cured meats to cake mixes and energy drinks. It's an ingredient that should not be lingering in your keto snacks.

Why to avoid it while on the keto diet:

Dextrose is also considered an added sugar. It has a high glycemic index, so it will spike your blood sugar. These added sugars are sneaky. Most people are consuming significantly more added sugar than what's recommended, and they may not even realize it.

Consuming a lot of sugar over time can, of course, lead to all kinds of health issues from fatigue and trouble with weight loss to some serious diseases like diabetes and even Alzheimers.

5.) Polydextrose

What is it?

Polydextrose is made in a laboratory. It's not natural, and it shouldn't be a part of your healthy ketogenic diet. It consists of sugars linked in chains. Polydextrose is essentially a synthetic sweetener used to sweeten or add texture to processed foods.

Polydextrose is actually synthesized from glucose and sorbitol, a low-calorie carbohydrate. Does that sound like an ingredient that you want in your keto snack? I don't want it.

Why to avoid it while on the keto diet:

Polydextrose is disguised in many prepackaged products and processed food as dietary fiber. But, dextrose doesn't seem to have the same nutritional benefits as natural fiber from whole food sources like vegetables. It's just another synthetic sugar that will, again, spike your blood sugar—the last thing you want on a low-carb ketogenic diet.

6.) Maltitol

What is it?

Maltitol is a sugar alcohol. Sugar alcohols can be found naturally in some fruits and vegetables. But, don't let that fool you. Most are typically manufactured and not used in their natural form. Sugar alcohols can add sweetness and help keep products moist.

A lot of companies sneak maltitol into their "weight loss," "keto," or "low-calorie" products because maltitol is cheap and adds sweetness with half the calories of sugar.

Why to avoid it while on the keto diet:

The problem is that sugar alcohols, including maltitol, are still considered carbohydrates. Maltitol may have less calories than sugar, but it still has a very high glycemic index, which means it can still mess with your blood sugar.

Maltitol also has some other interesting possible negative effects that those on a low-carb diet, a ketogenic diet, and really anyone trying to be a little more healthy should be aware of. Maltitol may cause all kinds of stomach issues from indigestion to gas and stomach pain. Despite the fact that it's often found in diet snacks, maltitol may actually make weight loss more difficult.

A scoop of soy protein isolate on a white table |  9 Bad Keto Ingredients to Avoid

7.) Soy Protein Isolate

What is it?

Look at the ingredient list of almost any nutrition bar, and you will find soy protein isolate. Soybeans can be eaten whole or made into a variety of different products form tofu to soy milk. They can also be made into a soy protein powder. Soy protein isolate is a dry powder that has been isolated from other components of the soybean.

Why to avoid it while on the keto diet:

The process of isolating soy protein may strip out a lot of the carbohydrates and fat, but it also strips out a lot of the nutrients. Soybeans are packed with nutrients, but isolating the protein means you aren't actually getting any other benefits from it.

What's worse is that the process isn't just taking out nutrients, it may also be adding in unhealthy additives. Another problem is that most of the soybeans grown in the US are GMO. This means that the soy protein isolate is being made from chemically modified and processed soybeans.

8.) Splenda/Artificial Sweeteners

What is it?

Splenda is a very popular artificial sweetener like aspartame. Many people on a low-carb or ketogenic diet search for something to sweeten up their diet without consuming sugar.

You might be able to get away with using some types of alternative sweeteners like stevia, but artificial sweeteners can often cause a lot of problems. There's definitely a difference between alternative and artificial. Stay away from artificial.

Why to avoid it while on the keto diet:

First off, Splenda is chlorinated sugar. Meaning, they actually add chlorine to it. Splenda also contains maltodextrin, which we went over earlier. Basically, it has a very high glycemic index. It may also alter your intestinal bacteria which can make weight loss challenging. Splenda may also cause other problems from blood sugar issues to even cancer.

9.) Tapioca Starch

What is it?

Tapioca starch is made from cassava root. It's often passed off as healthy gluten-free flour. If you eat a gluten-free diet, this might excite you. But, please don't make the huge mistake of thinking that because something is gluten-free, that means it's good for you. That's not always the case.

Tapioca flour is typically used for baking or as a thickener. But, even though it may be labeled as tapioca flour, keep in mind that it's actually almost all starch.

Why to avoid it while on the keto diet:

Because tapioca flour is actually tapioca starch, it's made up of carbohydrates—the enemy to those on a low-carb or ketogenic diet. Tapioca starch also contains very little nutrients. So, really you're just consuming empty calories. It also turns to sugar in the body pretty quickly.


Listen to Your Body

Please keep in mind that there are many other ingredients in so-called "keto-friendly" foods and snacks that aren't actually great for those on a low-carb ketogenic diet. Some of these ingredients will negatively affect your digestion among other things.

Everybody is different, so the best way to identify these ingredients is just to see how they affect your body. Listen to what your body is telling you. If you start experiencing issues like gas or bloating, then stay away from those foods or ingredients.

I hope this helps you out. Remember to read those ingredients, and I think you'll do just fine.

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